Back To CourseChemistry: High School
19 chapters | 179 lessons | 1 flashcard set
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Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.
Some elements get all of the glory. In fact, chances are you have even talked about some of these popular elements today.
But some elements aren't quite so recognizable. I mean it's doubtful you said either of these statements today:
Although antimony and bismuth aren't as recognizable as say oxygen, they make up a very important group of elements called group 5A.
Let's quickly look at the group 5A elements, which are located towards the right side of the periodic table. Group 5A includes Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Arsenic (As), Antimony (Sb), and Bismuth (Bi).
Sometimes group 5A is known as Group 15 or Group VA, it just depends on the periodic table you are viewing.
So take a deep breath (which is actually about 78% nitrogen), and prepare to be wowed by these not-so-famous elements!
Elements are placed in groups because they share similar properties, so before we look at all of the uses for each element in group 5A, let's look at what they have in common. By the way, groups are the vertical columns on a periodic table.
With the exception of nitrogen, all of these elements are solids at room temperature. They all have 5 valence electrons, which are the outermost electrons, farthest away from the center of the atom. These valence electrons help determine who the element can bond with, or attach to, as well as its properties.
All of the elements in group 5A become more metallic as you go down the group. In fact nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be found at the top of the group, aren't metals at all. They are classified as non-metals. Arsenic is a metalloid, meaning it has properties of metals and non-metals. Depending on who you talk to, Antimony can be classified as a metal or metalloid and bismuth is a metal.
Elements gain or lose their valence electrons in order to reach stability. For example, nitrogen can gain 3 electrons from another element, resulting in 8 valence electrons (this is the magic number for element stability).
When nitrogen gains 3 electrons, it becomes a -3 anion, which means it is an atom with a negative charge. You might also hear these charges called oxidation states.
Sometimes group 5A elements lose electrons and form cations, or an atom with a positive charge. Depending on the group 5A element, there can be many oxidation states other than -3 including: +5, +3, +2, and +1.
I'll stop here, but the take home message here, is the elements in group 5A can have many different oxidation states, so I guess they have that in common!
Elements in this group usually form covalent bonds with other elements, which means electrons are shared in the bond. But some can also form ionic bonds, which means electrons are taken and given up in the bond.
As you are starting to see, there is quite a lot of variation among members within this group, so let's take a look at the individual elements.
The most important element in this group is probably nitrogen. I already mentioned it makes up about 78% of the air you breathe, but here's a fun fact: the earth's atmosphere contains 4,000 trillion tons of nitrogen! To put that into perspective that is over 100 trillion grey whales.
As mentioned previously, nitrogen is the only member of this group that is a gas at room temperature. In fact nitrogen remains as a gas until it is cooled to about -320 degrees F! That's why liquid nitrogen is so cold!
Because it is so cold, liquid nitrogen is used to quickly freeze foods, store cells for research, and as a refrigerant. But nitrogen can be used in its non-liquid form as well, for example it is used in fertilizers, in explosives and even in dyes!
Nitrogen can also be found in amino acids in your body. Approximately 20% of the human body is made up of protein and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. So I guess you could say nitrogen is pretty vital to your overall wellbeing! It is also the main attraction in the nitrogen cycle where nitrogen travels from the air, to the soil, and into organisms.
So maybe nitrogen isn't so unrecognizable after all. As you move down the group, the next member of group 5A is phosphorus. Like nitrogen, phosphorus is a non-metal, but unlike nitrogen, it is a solid at room temperature.
It is more reactive than nitrogen and is not found in its pure form in nature, meaning it is bonded to other elements. If you take a moment, I bet you can find something that used phosphorus in the manufacturing process, in your own home! If you go look in your cabinet, you might find some baking soda and fine china. Baking soda has phosphorus in it and fine china uses phosphorus in the manufacturing process. It is also used in fireworks and in fertilizers.
Let's keep going down the periodic table. Next is arsenic. Unlike the first two members of this group, arsenic is a metalloid, and where nitrogen and phosphorus are important nutrients for humans, arsenic can kill you instantly! See, I told you this group has a lot of variation! Some are non metals, some are metalloids, some are metals, some are healthy, and some kill you! You can find arsenic in fireworks, in lasers, in rocks, and as you might have guessed... in poisons.
As we keep traveling down the group, we land on antimony. Now we are really getting into the unfamiliar with antimony. I'd say it definitely isn't a household name, but believe it or not, there was once a war fought over it (but we'll get to that later).
Antimony is a little confusing. Some people classify it as a metal, but since it doesn't always behave like one, some people classify it as a metalloid. For example, unlike normal metals, it is a poor conductor of electricity and heat. Antimony has various uses, such as an ingredient in batteries and flame retardants. It can be found in a form called stibnite, which is antimony bonded to sulfur atoms. In ancient Egypt stibnite was mixed with fat to produce eye makeup!
More on that war. So I may have misled you a little. There wasn't an actual war where people physically battled. The Antimony Wars occurred in the 17th century where chemists in France and Germany argued whether antimony was a poison or an ingredient in medicine. Although they didn't attack each other physically, the Antimony Wars got its name because they attacked each other with the pen through written papers and articles. And if you're curious, antimony is toxic, so I guess it is slightly unfortunate for those who did use it as a medicine.
The last member is bismuth, which is a whitish-pink metal. Even though it isn't something you've probably heard of, you have probably used it before! It is added to makeup and is an ingredient in indigestion medications.
Now that you know a little more about these not-so-famous elements, let's review some important ideas.
So from the air surrounding you to the makeup of ancient Egyptians, this group of elements is actually quite interesting! So, like oxygen, chlorine and tin, maybe you can use them in your daily language. I can hear it now:
I could go on and on!
Now that you have finished this lesson, tackle these objectives:
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Back To CourseChemistry: High School
19 chapters | 179 lessons | 1 flashcard set